Monday, August 30, 2010

Peterson Handwriting Review

Last month, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were asked to review Peterson Handwriting's cursive e-books.

Rather than just e-mailing us the e-books, we were asked to meet in Peterson Handwriting's online chat room at a specific time so Rand (the owner) could explain the approach and answer any questions. As it turned out, the day the chat was scheduled was the day we were travelling to Pittsburgh, so I got my own personal chat session with Rand a few days earlier. I have to admit, I'm generally not someone who likes . . . hands-on customer service. I've been known to walk out of stores because overly helpful clerks drive me nuts, leave me alone and let me do my thing!  So I groaned abit when I saw that we weren't just getting a nice, anonymous e-mail (why yes, I DO have hermit tendancies, thankyouverymuch) BUT Rand was great! He took lots of time explaining the theory behind the approach. He answered my questions, was personable, it was really a great experience! I can't say enough good about his customer service and genuine interest in helping his customers succeed! And that wonderful customer service wasn't just special treatment for us, he's available most days for live chat, just go to the main webpage and there's a link right under the animated handwriting strokes that says "Meet Live Now", just click on it to have live customer service!

Peterson's approach differs from most handwriting approaches by starting with gross motor skills. Their movement-based strategy is explained here. Children typically learn handwriting only using fine motor skills (writing the letters in the small size typical of, well . . . writing), if I understand it all correctly, the problem with this is that the brain doesn't remember the movements as well this way, so the children are essentially drawing each letter instead of "hardwiring" the hand movements needed for writing. By starting out using BIG motions, the movements are hard-wired and can then be "shrunk" to the typical size of adult writing.

We were given the first 3 cursive e-workbooks to review, they range from $20-$30 for individual licenses. e-e-workbooks for printing, classroom packs, homeschool packs, and other "accessories" like pencil grips are also available. The approach is designed to teach printing first, then cursive, but didn't seem to be age-specific. Rand didn't seem to think it was a problem when I told him my 7 year olds were learning cursive. He did mention that even my 1 year old might start copying the tracing motions in the air when we were working with the letters, and she does seem to be paying attention when we do it, we've joked that she'll be writing cursive by the time she's 2.  The web store IS set up with grade-levels, but my understanding is that it's simply linked to what the child has learned, not a specific age.  If you're wanting to start with this program, I'd recommend going to the live help link, mentioned above and describe for Rand where your child is currently at in his or her handwriting, and what your goals are, reasons for switching, etc. I'm sure he can recommend the appropriate starting point for each situation.

I was excited to receive this product. Just a few weeks before we had started learning cursive at A1's request. We weren't using a specific curriculum, I was just showing them how to write a letter and they would copy the letter, and we'd add a new letter once they felt comfortable with that letter. A2 was doing great with it, but A1 was struggling. After meeting with Rand online, I was very excited, the gross motor skills aspect and finger writing in the air and everything would be adding a kinesthetic element that should work well for my 2 kinesthetic learners. Additionally, this approach assigns "names" to the basic strokes and recommends having the children say those "names" as they trace, and later, write the letters, which I thought would work well for A2 who is also highly auditory.

There is essentially no teacher prep required (always a big plus for me!), simply print out the e-book and you're ready to go. It is laid out with large letters designed for the "teacher" to hold up and show the child(ren) each letter, then there are "workbook" pages for each letter that has an example of how the letter is made, and then space for the child to practice drawing the letter.  The teacher first shows the child the page with the large letters, and traces over those letters with his/her finger, saying the strokes used. Then have the child also trace over the large letter with his/her finger, and work together to practice the strokes in the air. Once the child is comfortable with these large-scale finger tracing, move on to writing the letters on the practice sheets. We made a few modifications. We put the pages in page protectors so that the girls could practice writing the letters (both the large ones and the smaller ones) with dry erase markers before they actually wrote on the paper. This allowed them to trace over the letters that were given as an example as well, which seemed to help them alot.

I think, if we had STARTED with Peterson, that it would have been a good fit for us. But after starting wit the other, A2 has struggled with Peterson. Somehow saying/hearing the names of the strokes just confuses her, and she feels like she's not remembering the letters as well as she was when we were just going through the letters one at a time. We are continuing to use the e-workbooks, but now for A2 we are using them like we were using the plain handwriting paper before. She looks at the practice page that shows how the letters are made, and then writes the letters and we skip the steps of naming the strokes and utilizing gross motor skills to write the letters BIG in the air.  We're still doing that for A1, who seems to be doing better with it, than she was with our original approach.

One day when they were being especially whiny about practicing their cursive, their daddy happened to be home, and was sitting there wearing shorts (which he never wears in public).  We had slipped the practice sheets into sheet protectors and they were practicing the letters with dry-erase markers so that we didn't waste paper, so they already had dry-erase markers in their hands. I told them to go practice their letters on Daddy's legs. After the seconds of shocked silence, they gleefully complied. And the result was . . .

Little Bit has been "learning" during this process as well. She has learned that markers are apparently for writing on skin. Whenever she finds a marker she tries to write on her tummy and legs or Daddy's legs if he's around. She does her best to finger trace the letters in the air along with big sisters. And when they are sitting at the dining room table doing their handwriting worksheets, she can generally be found sitting in the middle of the dining room table, busily writing, either on paper or herself, with whatever pen, pencil or marker she can lay her hands on.  Through this process I have learned that dry erase marker wipes off of wood tables (if caught properly, I don't know if it sat for awhile, what it would do) and, washes off skin easily,

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned products in exchange for an honest review, no other compensation was received. My opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Technology in Homeschooling . . .

This week's Blog Cruise topic is using technology in homeschooling.  I have to admit, I can't imagine how much harder it would have been to homeschool before we had all this technology at our fingertips.

 I mentioned last week that one way we save money in homeschooling is to download all the free resources available at various sites. We also "google" things often when the girls ask questions, or if they request a unit study on something that I don't have any free resources for (yet), I'll go hunting online for free lesson plans and unit studies, or the resources to make my own.

This spring I went to a seminar at our state homeschool convention about learning styles, and discovered that A2 is an auditory learner. That means that she learns best by hearing things, rather than reading them for herself (I'm the exact opposite, I would MUCH rather read things for myself & have a horrible time paying attention when I have to listen to lectures, etc), it also means that all the "background noise" of our house is very distracting for her when she's trying to work on copywork or other "independent work". One of the suggestions made for dealing with that "background noise" was to let them listen to an mp3 player of  soothing instrumental music to drown out the other noises. So, after attending that seminar,  we got inexpensive mp3 players for both big girls (while A1 isn't as predominantly auditory as A2, she's still more auditory than I am, and if nothing else, I figured perhaps listening to the music would curb her tendency to TALK when she's supposed to be working.  So we use the mp3 players. In addition to using it with classical music while they do their independent work, I also put short story and "nature nugget" mp3 files on their mp3 players, and if we are working on memorizing a long section of scripture and I can find it in song form, I'll put that song on their mp3 players, as well as playing it during school time & such.

I also use my own mp3 player to download longer stories (purchased or free) & also homeschool seminars that also apply to students, and we listen to those in the car.

If we're reading an e-book "chapter book", I'll often save it to my smartphone as well. When we're home, I'll read it on my computer, but that way if we're out and have some "down time" I have the "book" with us, and can read to them on my phone. Similarly, when we aren't reading a specific e-book (we typically read "real" books for bedtime stories and other read aloud time), I try to have one on my phone that we could start if we have some time to fill.

I also have a sudoku game on my phone, I play it when I get a chance, but I will also hand it to one of the girls if they are bored.  I'm actually toying with the idea of having hubby hunt down older, inexpensive I Touches for the 2 big girls. I think that would be a way to for them to have mp3 player, e-book reader, and games like suduko available when they are "bored" when we are out.

We do have netbooks for each of the girls also, but they honestly don't use them that often. As they get older, I think they'll be able to use them more for "school stuff", as they're able to read enough to do their own research. In the next year or two I want them to learn typing, so they'll learn that on their laptops as well. They also play educational games on their computers sometimes.

And those are a few of the ways that we use technology in our homeschool.

Little Bit-ese

Most of Little Bit's chatter is still Greek to me, but she's starting to say a few distinguishable words, so thought I'd share some here so I don't forget . . .

"mama" means several things, including Mommy (me), Mama (my mom), and nursing. But, perhaps the least intuitive meaning is "book".  One of her favorite books is a cute little board book called Mama Mama and I assume that's why she now says "mama" when she wants us to read any book to her.

"ba ba ba ba" means ball

"mmmmm" means kiss me (another book she likes is a Kindermusik one called Rhythm of My Day and when it talks about "Mommy kisses me goodnight" she holds her face up to me and says "mmmmm" and wants a kiss. Also when we go upstairs to tell the big girls goodnight, she holds her face up to them and says "mmmmm" to get/give goodnight kisses to them. SOOO cute!!

She says "appa" and does the sign for apple

Much to Daddy's delight she says Dadda.

I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting, but at least I got a few written down before she outgrows them and I forget.

Weekly Wrap-Up August 29

We started our week busy, and ended it quieter (much as I love visiting friends, I like quieter).  As you may remember (if you have nothing else to do but keep track of our schedule, hee hee), we were at my parents' house last weekend. And it was the weekend-o-seeing all our old friends. So, we continued with that theme and spent Sunday afternoon visiting my friend Vicki and her girls.  Little Bit had great fun on K & E's bouncy horse, it was fun to see her using it, that horse originally belonged to my friend Jenni, whose girls are a little older than my big girls. When Jenni lived in Northern VA, my girls LOVED that horse anytime we visited. Then Jenni moved to Kansas City, and since her girls had outgrown the horse, she was looking for a new home for it. Even though my girls were really too big for it by then too, I was still hoping we'd have another baby SOMEDAY, so I took the horse. And then, since Vicki's E was the right age to enjoy it, I loaned it to them. When I was pregnant with Little Bit, (and Vicki was pregnant with K) Vicki asked if I wanted the horse back, but honestly, we just do not have room for it in this house, and E loves all things horses, so I said they might as well keep it at their house. So it was fun to see Little Bit enjoying "our" horse, hee hee.

Little Bit also enjoyed the corn on the cob from Grandpa's garden. The big girls thought it was terribly unfair that Little Bit could eat corn on the cob and they couldn't (too many loose & missing teeth this summer, hee hee).  Mama cut their corn off for them, but they still found it terribly unfair, hee hee. Little Bit thoroughly enjoyed it though. And it brought back fun memories of the big girls at that age, chowing down on cold leftover corn on the cob at the airport as we were waiting to fly to the west coast with them.

Monday was another busy day. The girls spend a good part of the morning in Grandpa's garden picking raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes. Then we ate a quick, late breakfast and headed to another friend's house.  Laura was their Kindermusik teacher when we lived in Maryland. And her girls are 8 & 5 and also homeschool, so the 4 girls have great fun together. Laura also has an 11 mo old boy, so in another year or so Little Bit will have a playmate at Laura's house too. And for now, Little Bit had great fun exploring baby boy's toys, hee hee.  They have CHICKENS, so  the girls all had fun collecting eggs and generally torturing (err loving) the chickens (shudder).  And having a tea party (beautifully hosted by A, Laura's 8 yr old). Later we went for a walk and the girls played in the woods and stream. A1 got thoroughly soaked and muddy (thankfully, even though I'd warned them that they might have to ride home in wet clothes if they got wet) I DID have one dry outfit in the car, so she could change.

I had to share one more corn picture, because I think it's SOO funny. Little Bit is definitely the drama queen of the family, even surpassing her sister, A1.

Tuesday we headed home. And spent the rest of the week getting back into the routine of HOME!! School, chores, fun stuff like that. I'm hoping to get all of us (well, the big girls and me) back in the habit of daily chores, etc. So that, when we go to Williamsburg in a few weeks we can continue with a modified chore schedule while we're there (we're staying in a friend's time- share so there will be a kitchen and such and we'll hopefully fix most meals there rather than eating out so much).

I decided in light of how long we've all been out of the habit of daily chores (beyond the bare minimum), the girls could use some extra incentive to get back in the habit of doing chores w/o a million and one reminders (which has been pretty frustrating to me the last month or so, they do their chores, but only if I remind them every step of the way and that defeats some of the purpose of it all. If I have to call them in and remind them 3 times to feed the cats, I really could do it myself faster and easier. But of course, one of the main reasons for chores is teaching them the skills AND responsibility.

We all like Schleich animals, so I thought that would be a good incentive to use (and healthier than the ice cream treats I used last time we did this). So, we started on Wed. If they did all their chores on Wed without reminders (beyond necessary ones, I don't expect them to know when I'm going to go start lunch, or even notice that I've gone to the kitchen to start lunch, so I tell them when I'm going to fix lunch, BUT if I have to say it repeatedly then it becomes a reminder), they could either choose a small animal or wait and combine days to get a bigger animal or set. They both chose to wait. And both earned their first day on Wed.  Then they needed to go 2 more days (Thurs & Fri) without reminders to earn their second "prize". Which they also did. We were at Target this week, so they checked out the Scleich animals there and both decided they wanted a set of horses that I told them would take 4 "credits", so they're half way there. Today begins a 3 days "earning period", and then we'll do a 4 day "earning period" which will take us till next Sunday, when they'll get their horses (if they haven't missed any days). Next we'll go for a 5 day period which will take us to the next Fri, and then we'll probably stay at once a week for awhile, and see how it goes . . .

Yesterday was a GORGEOUS Sabbath! Not too hot, not too cold, sunny, couldn't ask for better weather. And all summer, our pastor & his wife have been "hosting" unofficial picnic potlucks at a local park. Anyone who wants to is welcome to come. The girls LOVE it, and I figured w/ such perfect weather, we really should go, so we did. Little Bit fell asleep on the way there, and Rodney decided to stay in the car with her so she'd get a decent nap, and the big girls were busy talking various people into telling them stories, so I got to just sit and have adult conversation for awhile, it was nice :o)

And so, today, we begin a new week, with nothing planned but school and chores and such. Ahhhh . . . gotta love weeks like that :o)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Little Bit, EC, Potty Learning, Sign Language and the Like . . .

How's that for a jumbled title? I thought we'd take a break from all things "school" and talk abit about the little dynamo who lives at our house.  Hubby often comments that "I'm afraid of her" because she is SO BUSY!! She's great fun though!!!

Anyway, a few months back, I pretty much gave up on the whole EC thing. I must admit, reading on the EC message board and seeing all the people saying their children were "graduating" at 36 months and similar made me wonder, what's the point . . . the big girls were potty trained, at their own initiative, at 29 months so, ummm . . . I don't find 36 months very "early" (yes, I realized there are many children who don't potty train till closer to age 4, or even later, honestly, I blame disposables, and a great marketing from the diaper companies, convincing society that these late ages are the "norm" but we won't go there). Anyway, at some point she completely refused to have me hold her over the potty or toilet. She also, RARELY would go in the potty when I sat her on it. I still generally sat her on it for at least a few seconds during at-home diaper changes, but it was all pretty discouraging/pointless.

The pull-on, extra absorbent training pants, I'd come up with as a great alternative to normal cloth diapers when she was consistently pooping in the potty become much less "great" now that she was pooping in them again. . . and I must admit, in general, non-breastfed poop in cloth is challenging me this time, mainly because we spend most of our time on the main floor which doesn't have a bathroom, so swishing the poopy diaper in the toilet before tossing it in the wet bag isn't as convenient as it was when the powder room was right down the hall. So, we've been using disposables quite abit.

Somewhere around 11 mo. she figured out to remove disposable diapers (just undo the "velcro" tabs). So, we switched to pull-ups.

Then during our July trip she figured out how to remove a pull-up (or pull-on cloth diaper), sigh . . . Thankfully she hasn't mastered it when she's wearing other clothes (pulling a dress up and then her diaper down is beyond her), so we don't have to worry about it in public. At that point, she generally was only wearing just a diaper at bedtime (she's such a hot blooded little thing, she gets too hot if she sleeps in anything more than a diaper). So not a huge deal.

THEN she figured out how to remove her clothes if they just pull over her head (shirts or knit dresses w/o buttons or snaps), which alot of hers are. She then decided that if we are at home (or stay too long at someone else's house LOL), she doesn't need clothes. Ok, no big deal.

Last weekend at my parents, since there's a bathroom right off the living room, I used the Potette Plus on the adult toilet. She was so funny, we'd go in the bathroom and I'd take her diaper off, she'd put the Potette on the toilet, I'd sit her on it, and she'd immediately reach for the toilet paper (after the first few times of trying to keep her from unrolling the whole roll, I took it off the holder & set it out of her reach on the counter, but she'd still reach for it). When I gave her a little piece she'd promptly "wipe herself" (even though she hadn't done anything) and then drop it in the toilet. So  . . . she has it all figured out EXCEPT the most important step LOL.

THEN, this week she has decided diaper was also optional in these situations (well, at home anyway, I generally discourage/distract to avoid that if we're at someone else's house). So, the greater part of our days (when we're home) she now spends naked.  It drives Daddy crazy (and for that reason, I try to keep at least a diaper on her when he's around), and we've had a few accidents, but we've had quite afew pottyings in the potty too, woohoo!!! Granted, I offer the potty/sit her on the potty OFTEN. And will have her sit on the potty while we read stories & such, but she has also, a couple times, walked to the potty & sat down & peed all on her own (Mommy gets VERY excited when she does this). We've also had a couple times when I've seen her start to pee and said "wait, lets go in the potty!" and she stops and lets me carry her (very quickly) to the potty to finish. So, considering she's 17 mo old, I'd say we're doing pretty well . . . I wouldn't be in such a hurry if she didn't insist on removing diapers.

In other news, she's really starting to pick up on sign language. We're working on animals right now and she has several that she uses when we see them in books. And a few that are her own . . . my favorite, when she sees horses she pretends she's riding a horse, bounces up & down, it's SOO cute!

So, that's what's going on in Little Bit's world these days.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Not Back to School Blog Hop - Day in the Life Week!

It's the last week of the NOT Back-to-School Blog Hop and this week is "Day-in-the-Life Week".  I'm not sure any 2 days are ever the same for us, and today was our first day home after being gone for a long weekend, but here's what our day was like today:

Sometimes the big girls get up before Little Bit and me (she nurses so much in the mornings, it's pointless for me to try to get up before she does), but this morning we all got up about the same time. After individual Bible reading and prayer times, A1 & A2 got busy unloading the dishwasher and feeding the cats while I pulled together what we'd need for school today, and started today's load of laundry. Since we just got home, I was feeling lazy, so we just had cereal for breakfast instead of cooking anything. While we were all busy with these things, Little Bit watched Signing Times with whichever of us had time to be in there with her.

After breakfast, one of the big girls ran down to do the next step of the laundry (we were washing diapers, so when I put laundry in, I set it to a rinse cycle to "soak" (my washer doesn't have a soak cycle, boo-hoo, that was SO convenient at our old house) the diapers, so then I sent one of the girls down to turn the actual wash cycle on.

Next was school time.  We had Bible time (learning about church history. I forgot to take a picture today, but here's a picture from a couple weeks ago.  I read today's story while the big girls moved the felts around as required.  Little Bit can be a challenge during this, but she did better about not touching today, fingers crossed that the trend will continue LOL.

We also practiced the girls' memory verses, and spanish vocab, while we were in the family room. While we were doing all of this, Little Bit was busy playing with her "school time toys", a set of foam puzzles that she's still abit young for, but likes to take apart and carry the pieces around and such.

Next we moved to the dining room table so the big girls could do their handwriting and copywork. Little Bit thinks she needs to be in the middle of the dining room table during this time, so we just go with it. And yes, she's naked. She's decided that anytime we're home, she needs to be naked.  She fusses until I help her take her clothes off (if she's wearing something she can't take off herself, if it just pulls over her head, she can take it off herself) and then takes her own diaper off, so we're just going with it. She HAS been going in the potty at least some of the time, so fingers crossed that this will all pull together to equal early potty training.  While she's on the dining room table she likes to write on whatever papers she can get her hands on with whatever pen or pencil she can find, generally dry erase markers, they wipe off easily when she misses the paper and hits the table (I desperately need to get a "oilcloth" table cloth back on the table, but keep forgetting).  She also uses the markers to draw all over her tummy and legs, hee hee.
When she gets bored with that (or I get tired of her doing that and want to distract her) we pull out the "jar of toys". When we were gone last month, our wonderful neighbor came over every day to watch the cats. Long story short, one day one cat got in the house (if both had been inside it would have been fine, but they go INSANE if they're separated) and destroyed the house. Our wonderful neighbor went WAY beyond the call of duty (considering how cluttered the house was when we left) and cleaned everything up. But there were alot of little toys and stuff that she wasn't sure where they went, so she found an empty half gallon mason jar in the kitchen and threw them all in it, I LOVED how it looks, so hadn't bothered to go through it and put things away, then one day when Little Bit was on the table, she pointed at it, so I got it down off the shelf and dumped it on the table. She had a BLAST putting everything back in the jar, so now that's one of our ways of keeping her occupied during school.

During all of this, the big girls are busily doing their handwriting and Bible copywork. And I'm generally busy putting things away, doing dishes, whatever needs doing and is close enough for me to keep an eye on Little Bit on the table. Today, when A2 finished her copywork, and Little Bit was still happily playing on the table, I asked A2 to watch her while I ran up and grabbed a 30 second shower.

Then we were done with school. Because I knew we'd be gone this afternoon running errands, I asked them to do their "afternoon chores" right after school. Today's chores were cleaning the toilet and dusting for A2, and cleaning the dishwasher door and watering the plants for A1.

After they finished those chores, the big girls went and got the laundry from the washer so I could hang it on the line.

While I was hanging the clothes, all three kids get outdoor time. The big girls keep an eye on Little Bit (yes, she's still sans clothes). Sometimes they play on the swing, sometimes they let Little Bit ride her "bike" on the patio, or push her push toys around. Other times they just go for a walk around the house. Earlier this summer when there were wild raspberries on the edge of the woods, they'd take her over there for a yummy snack.

Once we got the laundry hung (with a fun break to visit with some friends from church who stopped by because they were in the area, they were highly amused at Little Bit's attire, or lack thereof, hee hee). It was time to get ready to run errands. Little Bit DID have to get dressed for that. And then we were on our way. I realized as we were leaving that it was almost lunch time and I hadn't brought anything to eat, so we made a quick drive-thru stop for lunch (healthy, I know, but oh well . . .) after our quick library stop to pick up the Felicity books on CD (since we're going to Williamsburg in a few weeks, I thought it would be fun to re-read (er, hear) the Felicity books that are set in Williamsburg) and a book that A2 picked out to read.
Then we headed to get milk. We drive about 1/2 hour, once a week, to get raw milk. Little Bit took her nap while we drove (and since we get our milk from a lovely farm family and it takes me about 30 seconds to run in and get it, she kept sleeping while I did that.  Since we get milk in an area with lots of Amish and Mennonites, I was hoping to get a picture of either a horse and buggy or a farmer using horses out in the field to harvest crops, but no such luck. We DID follow a horse & buggy for a little while on our way there, but there were several cars between us and the buggy so I couldn't get a picture. I DID snap a picture of the big girls enjoying ice cream sandwiches while we drove. We ran other errands once Little Bit woke up and finally made it home mid-afternoon.

When we got home the big girls played outside for awhile,then came inside to help straighten up the house and help with supper.  After supper they headed back outside to play until bedtime (weather is SO nice, gotta enjoy that outdoor time as much as they can).
And that was our day, at least today, tomorrow will be different, of course, but the basic format of chores, breakfast, school, lunch, chores, play, supper, bed is pretty standard for us. Hope you enjoyed a peak into our days.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Believe it or not, I'm actually getting our menu posted for Menu Plan Monday for once!!! We're visiting my parents right now, so the menu really starts Tues night when we get home. I went ahead & included meals for all meals, but reserve the right to skip one if we have enough leftovers at any point to make a meal of leftovers LOL. In most cases, if I use a recipe, there's a link to it if you click through to the detail of the calendar entry.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

We've had another busy week!

On Monday, we visited Grandmom (my mother-in-law). The big girls had fun helping her fix lunch and talking her ear off. Little Bit enjoyed climbing on the coffee table and THROUGH the coffee table and seeing how many things she could find to touch that she wasn't supposed to touch LOL.

Tuesday the girls and I visited our neighbor/adopted grandma for lunch. When she set a bowl of chocolate pudding and a spoon in front of Little Bit I cringed (to say the least) but Little Bit did surprisingly well with it. Pudding is apparently a good consistency for learning spoon skills, because it sticks to the spoon pretty well, LOL.

Wednesday we went to Sesame Place and took Daddy with us (first time in a couple years, at least, that he's come with us). Since it's unlikely that we'll make it to Sesame Place again this summer, they especially wanted to go one last time to 2 of the activities that are for ages 7 and under (since they'll be too old next year). One's a climbing mountain thing, which they did when we first got there, but the line to the other one (Ernie's Bed bounce, basically a big moon-bounce) was long, so we said we'd come back later. However, when we DID come back, the girls were at the very front of the line, ready to go in the next time, when it started raining and they had to close the attraction because it gets slippery. The girls were sad, especially since "we can go next time" didn't apply in this case, but held it together, they're growing up!  I also got a kick out of Little Bit at the parade. Friendly as she is with strangers, she wasn't so sure about the dressed up characters. So she'd wave to them as they walked by BUT if they came toward her, she'd quickly stop waving and pull back against Daddy, it was SOO cute, wish I could have gotten a picture, but as usual, people who didn't get to the parade route early seemed to think they had the right to push in front of those of us who DID, so I didn't have a clear shot of Little Bit and/or was being jostled by people who had literally pushed between our stroller and me (another lady tried to push between A2 and me, but I guess thought better of that).

Thursday (I TOLD you it was a busy week), the girls and I packed up and headed to my parents' for a long weekend. On our way down, we stopped at my friend, Kim's house to pick up some things she had for me, and spent a great afternoon visiting (well, Kim and I visited, all the kids played). When we lived in MD, Kim and I both got raw milk from the same farm so we took turns going to the farm to get it, and then got together weekly to deliver milk, so we've all missed being able to get together regularly since we moved. It was fun to see Little Bit and Kim's youngest (who's 2) interact since they don't see each other often. They did pretty well, both "shared" when needed.

Friday morning, we went to my grandparents' house (they live on the same property as my parents) and the girls had fun in the garden. Little Bit was napping part of the time, but I guess the big girls were good help picking and husking corn, as well as picking (and eating LOL) raspberries and blackberries and cherry tomatoes. When Little Bit woke up, I took her out there too, and she was happy to eat all the blackberries I was willing to pick for her. I tried letting her pick her own cherry tomatoes, but she tended to squeeze just abit too hard and squirt them everywhere.

Friday afternoon we visited some friends from Frederick (where we used to live). The kids hadn't seen each other since we moved (over 2 years ago). It took them a little while to warm up, but soon they were off running and playing just like old times.

Sabbath morning A1 wasn't feeling good, so she & I stayed home while A2 and Little Bit went to Sabbath School with Mama & Papa. We'd planned to go to Antietam Battlefield in the afternoon (during some of our endless driving recently, we listened to the Your Story Hour CDs about Robert E. Lee which includes an account of the battle of Antietam, so the girls wanted to see the "Bloody Lane" for themselves while we were nearby), but combination of it being HOT out and A1 still not feeling quite 100% (though I think she was FINE, she was just enjoying the extra attention of being "sick" and A2 was having fun being her (very bossy) "nurse"). So we just stayed home and let them play.

And that was our week!! Our busyness continues, with visits to other MD/WV friends on Sun. and Mon. (and possibly Tues. morning) before heading home Tues.

Despite all the busyness, we managed to "do school" on Sun. and Tues, as well as listen to Pathway of the Pioneers (Bible class) CDs, during some of our driving. We also listened to Your Story Hour, which gave us some history and such (as mentioned above), and Bible in Living Sound CDs (and Bible stories are ALWAYS a good thing!).  We've also been having fun with a math game we were sent to review.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Affordable Homeschooling

Tuesday's Blog Cruise topic is how do you afford to homeschool and how do you save money while homeschooling.  In once sense, we save money BY homeschooling because our second choice for schooling our children would be the local church school so we would have the tuition expense for that if we chose to STOP homeschooling. BUT . . . that aside, here are my thoughts on the topic.

We save money buy not buying expensive "boxed curriculum" and textbooks. The internet provides so many options, and we prefer to use more of a delight driven approach anyway (we choose topics that are of interest to one or more of the children).

If I find a free downloadable resources, I save it, whether I think we'll ever use it or not.  Homeschool Freebie of the Day has a freebie every weekday, I check it daily and I'm not sure I've ever NOT downloaded it.  Currclick offers a weekly freebie they also have special promotions a few times a year where they have lots of freebies, if you sign up for their mailing list, you'll know when they are. The Old Schoolhouse Store has a Free section, that I check every so often, there's also a link there to sign up for TOS's special offers list, which gives you 2 free ebooks a month. And again, being signed up for TOS's mailing list will notify you when they have other promotions that often include free, or greatly discounted products.

Over the last couple of years I have collected a huge amount of resources, if the children say they want to study xyz, I just search on my computer and often can find what we need.

Even though we school year-round, I make sure to buy any school supplies that I know we'll need, during the back-to-school sales, basics likes glue sticks, paper, crayons and markers are generally much less during the back-to-school sales.

Ask about homeschool discounts. In most cases I've found that it just means I sign up for their "teacher discount" program. But it can often save a small percentage off of purchases &/or they send you coupons. Craft supply stores (AC Moore, Michaels, etc) and bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Nobles are good places to check. Also, teacher supply stores.

Remember to save the pennies too. My kids could go through REAMS of paper with their craft projects and writing stories and such. Whenever any of us print things out one-sided and then don't need them, we put the paper in a bin, and that's the paper the kids can use as much as they want, whenever they want. They generally don't care about the printing on the back and it's paper that would have been recycled otherwise. Also, if I know they'll need extra practice on something, like handwriting, I'll slide the page into a plastic page protector and then have them write on the page protector with a dry erase marker, rather than having them go through several pages of paper.

We use our library whenever we can. And when we need books that aren't in the library, I try to order them used from  Amazon sells used books too, but you have to pay full shipping on each used item. gives a discount on shipping if you order more than one item from the same seller. So I keep a list of all the books I'd LIKE to have, then when we need a specific book for something, I find the lowest price on and then check that seller (which is typically a company that sells old library books and has lots of books available) for all the other books on my wish list, often I can find at least a few, at $1-$2 each, and then combine the shipping, for further savings.

Library and Educational Services is another site we love. It's a site that provides wholesale/discount prices for books and other media for schools, churches, etc. And homeschoolers can sign up for an account too.

Another way to save money is to buy memberships to zoos and museums.  Last fall we had an extra day in Columbus, OH on our way back from Indiana (visiting family), and we decided to take the kids to the science museum there. Even though we didn't figure we'd be back in Columbus within a year, the membership was reciprocal with other science museums all over the country, so we decided to buy a year's membership instead of just the one day passes (the year's membership was less than 2 days entrance for the 4 of us, Little Bit of course was free). So far this year, in addition to our day at the COSI museum in Columbus, we have spent 3 days at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, 3 days at the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh, 2 days at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, and an afternoon at the small museum in our own hometown. Needless to say, the purchase of that membership has been well worth the money.

Keep your ears open for other homeschool deals.  Colonial Williamsburg in VA holds a 2 week "homeschool days" every spring and fall, during those dates homeschoolers can go to Colonial Williamsburg for a FRACTION of the normal admission fee AND there are extra demonstrations and hands-on activities planned during that time as well.

All of these are things we've done to keep costs down. And even in these things, it can be adjusted based on budget. Obviously, if we couldn't afford the science museum membership, we wouldn't have HAD to go to science museums. Since we could, we made the money stretch as far as possible by getting the membership instead of a one day pass. Combine trips, all those days I mentioned at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh museums, were when my husband was working in one of those cities anyway, we just traveled with him, his company paid the hotel, so that saved that cost, and in addition to the fun of the museums, and getting time with Daddy in the evenings, we had an indoor pool for the children to play in.

When you do buy resources, try to get things used, and try to plan things that can be reused.  After A1 and A2 fell in love with the Little House books when we read them for bedtime stories, I decided to go ahead and buy a year-long unit study on the Little House books. I bought it and we used it last year, adjusting things as needed because they were younger than the recommended age, BUT they enjoyed it, and now we have everything and can re-use it in a few years when the big girls are old enough to do the more advanced activities and Little Bit will be old enough to enjoy the stories and easier activities by then. So we'll get 2 years (at least) out of that purchase. And who knows, Little Bit may choose to use it again when she's in the recommended age range (3rd to 6th grade). I'm also loaning it to a friend this year, so that's another year's use someone can get out of it.

Think of ways to make things yourself, or make do.  When I was at a teacher supply store last week, I saw teh CUTEST "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" set! It was a big palm tree with velcro letters to stick to the tree, I loved it! Little Bit already loves the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book, BUT rather than spending the money on it, I filed the idea away and at some point will figure out and make something similar. perhaps just a felt tree with felt letters, but I'd love to have a 3-D tree like that one was, we shall see . . .similarly, there were some cute games for improving fine motor skills where you use plastic tongs to "feed" the monkey plastic bananas (or whatever), even my 7 yr olds thought it looked fun, but instead of buying a $20 game, I ordered some of the plastic tongs from a homeschool site, when they get here we can design our own games with dried beans or whatever. . .

I honestly believe that, if we needed to, we could homeschool for several years without any "cost" just by using the free resources I've collected, and other free options (there would be some "school supplies" needed, but those are needed for school children too). Remember, you don't need math manipulatives, you can teach your children to count using tomatoes as they help pick them from the garden, or gravel in the driveway or little toys you already have. My children are learning fractions by helping to cook. As they get older, I sometimes have them help me to do the calculations to double or halve a recipe to further learn fractions. They learn to read by reading "real" books that we have or get from the library. They practice their writing by copying Bible verses. . . nature is all around us and provides a lovely science curriculum free for the taking. If we don't

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

We've been busy around here this week.

We officially started our new school year. The girls are LOVING using felts for Bible. I wasn't sure, when they were younger I got several sets of felts related to nature or Bible stories and they were never interested, so I originally thought we might just use the book of stories that came with the church history felts and skip the felts, but when I asked them about it, they wanted to use the felts too, so for the last couple months I've been spending every spare moment cutting out and gluing together a million, trillion (ok maybe not quite, but it felt like it) felts. As I was doing it, in the back of my mind was the fact that they've never LIKED felts, and I was probably doing all this work for nothing, but, at least so far, they are LOVING it!!! And were very disappointed when we skipped school one day this week so they didn't get their daily felt-play LOL. I read the story & they move the felts around accordingly, they're LOVING it.

We're also continuing to work on cursive, handwriting, it can be challenging at times, but the girls are sticking with it.  Little Bit is so funny, since we do handwriting at the dining room table, she's discovered that she can climb onto a chair and then on up onto the table. The big girls use dry erase markers to learn the letters, so once Little Bit is on the table, she finds a marker, and a piece of paper and pretends she's writing on it. I had to giggle, someone at church this week commented that her "pencil grip" (she was using a magna-doodle) was really good for a toddler, guess all that handwriting practice is helping, hee hee.

With all our travel, AND the struggles the girls (and who are we kidding, me too) have with keeping their supplies organized and not losing things, I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to consolidate and streamline. This summer I got a Pro-click hole punch, so I decided to use it this year to make each of the girls a "workbook" that has the worksheets, paper, etc they need each day. That way, when we travel, they can just bring that one book with them and we'll have what we need for all subjects. So that was another project for this week, finally got A1's done on Friday, I'm hoping to write a post in the next few days, complete with pictures, showing off their books. While I was at it, I made a "lesson plan" book for me too.

Also this week we took a day and went to IKEA and a teacher-supply store that's near IKEA. The girls were disappointed to not get their daily felt-play, but it gave us a chance to listen to a CD of stories about early SDA church history, so that worked well. Little Bit is a challenge to shop with right now, she does NOT want to ride in the cart, and doesn't tolerate hand-holding for very long at a time. As long as we can keep moving, she does ok "helping" to push the cart, but the second we stop, she's off in 15 directions. The big girls were a huge help though, and didn't complain about holding her hand or chasing her, as needed.  Of course, a trip to IKEA is never complete without eating lunch there, and as a bonus, they're having a "kids eat free" promotion right now, so I only had to pay for my meal, and got meals for all 3 kids free, woo-hoo! 

As always, the teacher supply store had SO MANY tempting things, but in most cases, I just made note of the concepts and figured I could make something similar for less.

On Thursday we went to a small local museum that I've been wanting to go to since we moved here. It's literally down the street from hubby's office, and the science museum membership we have includes this museum, so it's silly that we haven't been.  It's a small museum, not alot for young kids, though there IS a small "please touch" area that includes costumes and such, so the kids had fun there. They were relatively interested in the rest of the museum, but it was abit over their heads, especially with Little Bit being restless so I couldn't take as much time to answer questions as well as I'd have liked. We do need to go back to the Planetarium sometime (currently it's only open on Sundays) and we'll keep an eye on the banner outside the museum to see what the "special exhibits" are when they change.

To add to the over-all busyness of this week, I had 2 book clubs, which usually are a week apart, but happened to fall on the same week this month.

While Little Bit and I were at one of them, Rodney took the big girls miniature golfing. Sounds like they had a blast, and did pretty well too.

And finally, we finished up our busy week, by hiking at Hawk Mountain on Sabbath afternoon. I'd figured we'd spend some time at the visitor center, then walk up the easy path to the first overlook, and call it good. BUT the big girls and Daddy had other ideas, they wanted to see if we'd see anything else from the other overlooks. So THEN I figured ok, we'll go on up the path and stop at the 3-4 overlooks that are along the path while it's still an easy path, then turn around when it changes from easy to "rough".  Nope, they wanted to keep going. Little Bit, had HER own ideas too, she walked the entire way on the easy path, and wanted to keep walking when we hit the rocky trail, but that wasn't safe, so I put her in the sling (with much protesting from her) and went about halfway to the North Overlook (their goal) before deciding that she was NOT going to settle down and be content in the sling and I had had enough of trying to safely navigate rocks, in crocs, with a fussing, fidgeting toddler in a sling (and, since I hadn't planned to HIKE it was a ring sling that I'd brought in case she wanted to nurse for a few minutes while we were walking, not a nice supportive wrap that would have been my choice for real hiking). So at that point, Little Bit & I turned around, but Rodney & the big girls kept going. Rodney said the path got even rockier and would have been hard to navigate with Lina in the sling, so sounds like I made the right decision. He and the girls said the views WERE amazing when they got to the North Lookout though.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Considering Homeschooling?

One of the fun things the TOS Homeschool Crew is doing this year is hosting a weekly Blog Carnival called the "Blog Cruise" with a variety of homeschool topics.  The first Blog Cruise will be posted on Aug. 17 and the topic is advice for those who are considering homeschool or just starting out.

So let's see . . . my advice is, first pray about it and discuss it with your spouse, and if, at that point, you feel it is God's will for your family, don't stress about it too much!

 If your children have been in school, there may be other considerations, like helping them re-discover a love of learning, and de-school and such, and I'm not going to even pretend to give advice on any of that because our children have never been to school. I'm sure there will be others on the Blog Cruise with great advice on those areas, but I'm going to speak with the assumption that your children are just approaching school age, and haven't been to school yet.

I see so many people worrying about "doing it right". When it all boils down to it, homeschooling is really just 24/7 parenting of your children, instead of sending them off to someone else to train for the better part of each day.

Young children love to learn. You would have to work at it to KEEP them from learning!! Do you worry and stress about teaching your infant to talk? No, they learn to talk by listening to you. And homeschooling is just continuing on, not sending them away to learn when they hit that magic age of 5 or 6 or whatever.

Ask your children what they'd like to learn about (my kids always have 101 ideas, but obviously not the attention span to learn it all at once), observe what they're interested in, and go with it.

I do have one more suggestion. Develop a "teacher mentality", when they ask questions, ANSWER them, or help them find the answers. My husband sometimes gets frustrated trying to watch shows from the History channel and TLC and such when the girls are around because they want to UNDERSTAND everything, but that's really a great thing, it's how they learn!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Planning for an Organized School Year

One of the challenges of homeschooling is organizing everything. I wrote some earlier this week about how we organize our house for homeschooling. And in a week or so I'm planning on doing a post about the specifics of how we're organizing papers this year, but today I wanted to tell you about an AMAZING product for organizing, not just your homeschool but your whole life!!! 

The 2010 Homeschool Planner is unlike anything else I've ever seen (except maybe the 2009 Homeschool Planner, hee hee). This is over 600 pages of information and printables for organizing not just your homeschool, but your home as well. 

Every year I search for the perfect calendar/lesson planner, and every one I find isn't QUITE right for our family. The 2010 Homeschool Planner is a .pdf file that you can purchase as a CD or instant download (that's right, you don't even have to wait for it to come, you can get it as SOON as your order it!!!). And then you can print out whichever pages work for your family, and as many copies of each page as you need. It's even set up so you can fill in your own information and SAVE it, so you don't have to hand write everything like you would if you bought a paper planner.
And what about planners for your children? You can make those too. So for one low price you get not ONE planner, but planners for the whole family!!

But wait! This isn't JUST a Lesson Planner, it's a HOUSEHOLD PLANNER too! A few years ago I wrote about my household notebook. My household notebook is in desperate need of a re-vamp, and all the amazing HOUSEHOLD forms in the 2010 Homeschool Planner are just perfect for the re-vamp, now to find the time to actually DO it! But wait, with all the lovely calendars and to do lists in the Homeschool Planner, I'm sure I'll be able to find more time in my days. If only I wasn't spending so much time reading all the recipes and homeschool articles and resource links and . . . 

Not only does the Homeschool Planner help you organize your home AND your homeschool, but for each month it provides ideas for unit studies and homeschool subjects as well. 

AND if you buy in the next couple of days (until August 15), you get an awesome free gift as well!!! I reviewed one of the Planner Modules here, and you get a whole year's worth of modules FREE!!! How great is THAT?!?!

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I wrote this blog post while participating in the The Old Schoolhouse advertising campaign, making me eligible for a prize. I received a free copy of the planner to facilitate the writing of this blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our "School Room"

Not Back to School Blog Hop 
This week's topic on the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop is School Rooms.  And again, we don't fit nicely into a box.  We kind of use the whole house for school.  But here are some of our school spaces:

I wrote here, about our homeschool bookshelves on one end of the dining room. And for the most part, they are still like that.

One change I made was to put the pens, pencils, etc (that I had in jars) all into a crate that slides onto the shelf.  Little Bit was just tall enough to grab the edge of whatever jar, or pencil sharpener or whatever was closest to the edge and pull it down, so, while having them out was more convenient for the big girls and I, we needed to contain them in the crate for the sake of toddler-proofing (especially now that Little Bit has learned to take the caps off markers and pens.

Next to the bookcases we have our maps. My dad helped me find some little, but STRONG, magnetic things designed to hang on the wall in a garage or workshop to hold tools, we hung those at the top 2 corners of the map and then we can use magnets to hold whichever map we're currently using on the wall. The other maps (we have 2 different US maps, plus a world map) slide in beside the bookshelf, you can see the world map peaking out there.  We could also hang any other charts or whatever on those magnets.

Another dining room wall holds our white board. It's kind of messy at the moment, we have our "consequences" chart hanging there, the small blue framed white board in the middle has the day's Bible copywork verse. I bring that into the family room with us while we discuss Bible, then we hang it on the big board when the girls do their independent work (currently the Bible copywork, handwriting worksheet, and sometimes a Spanish worksheet). There's also a sheet with how to write all the cursive letters, some alphabet magnets, etc on the main white board.

We started our new fall curriculum this week. For Bible, we're learning about church history using felts .It's a full size set of felts, intended for church, so kind of big for home use, at least OUR home. Originally I'd thought we'd hang the backgrounds on the "map magnets" in the dining room, but the chair rail would get in the way (the backgrounds are taller than the maps). So I decided to just take the cushions off the couch and lay the background against the back of the couch. It's working well, the big girls can sit on either side of it to change the felts as we read through the story, and they are LOVING it.

And my final picture is of my crate. The recliner is my main "teaching" spot in the living room. It's also where I nurse Little Bit. It works well since my laptop can sit on the sofa arm (they're at right angles right next to each other). And I tend to put "stuff" in the corner between the recliner and the sofa. It's ideal because Little Bit can't get to it very well. And I can reach it when she's nursing or sleeping or as we're doing school . . . BUT it tends to get messy, so when I found these great crates (the same kind I used on the bookshelf in the dining room) at Walmart this year I put one in my "corner". It keeps everything contained, stands the books and papers up so I can reach them more easily than if they're laying on the floor, and they don't get wrinkled as easily, AND I'm hoping it will force me to keep things "pared down" to what I really need to be able to reach, by cleaning things out when the crate gets too full. While it's not ALL school stuff, this does hold our Spanish teachers guide, My Bible First "quarterly" (which is our Bible stories for church, we read them in teh evening), pens, sticky notes, etc.

So that's at least SOME of our "school room" spaces. The whole outdoors is another one. The dining room table is where the girls sit to write, the spare room upstairs holds our printer & photocopier, and the girls often use that room for doing crafts.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

We "took the week off" from school this past week. We got home from our trip, had just finished our Polished Cornerstones study, it seemed like a good time to take a break before we jumped into the new fall curriculum plans. So, we had an exciting week of catching up on laundry and such instead, hee hee.

That said, it was a good week. The weather was, overall, pretty nice for August, so the big girls spent alot of time outside.

The extra laundry led to us going outside early in the day, and the big girls watched Little Bit, which is good for all 3 of them.  So that will be carried over into our new daily schedule.

The big girls used some of their extra time to write a "puppet show" and plan it all out, they performed it for me today. Very cute.

One of the evenings we went for a walk, we walked around the "circle" of road near our house twice, which is equivalent to about 1/2 mile, and Little Bit walked the WHOLE way!! It's all up & down hills too.

It seems like I'm forgetting some things we did, but oh well . . . it was a quiet week, I LIKE quiet weeks.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not Back to School Blog Hop - Curriculum Week

Not Back to School Blog Hop

This week is the first week of the Not Back to School Blog Hop over at Heart of the Matter. And this week’s theme is curriculum. Which is an interesting topic for us this year . . . Last year was a “planned” year. Between Polished Cornerstones and Prairie Primer, we had our daily “lessons” that had to be done, if not truly DAILY, at least regularly. And now this year, we’re going back to a more “unschooled” approach. Or at least “unplanned” LOL. Lots of factors . . . this is our last year that we don’t have to worry about reporting to the state (PA law requires that we start reporting when the girls are 8, so we will be “official” homeschoolers next July). We have quite abit of travel planned for this fall, including a week in Williamsburg, another trip out to western PA, and a trip to Disney, etc. Also, this is our first year on the TOS Crew I’m really not sure how that would fit in with a planned out year, since we don’t know in advance what we’ll be reviewing or when. So, by not planning out a cohesive year, we can be free to review whatever’s thrown our way when it comes along.

Also, these last 3 weeks of traveling and spending lots of time at museums, has reminded me that we haven’t explored the area closer to home very much. So, I’d also like to keep time open to visit museums and historic sites in our area.

So, the “curriculum plan”, such as it is, is as follows (and because it’s so many little things, it ends up being so much longer than a boxed curriculum, or even a couple different unit studies:

Bible – This is by far our #1 priority subject. If my children don’t learn anything else from me, as their mother & teacher, but grow up with a good relationship with God, I can live with that. A couple months ago A1 asked me if we could study the history of our church (Seventh-day Adventist). So that’s what we’ll be doing for Bible this year. I don’t have a curriculum as such for it. There’s a set of felts that used to be used in Sabbath School, and my parents had a set of them. Another SDA homeschooler mentioned that the book of “lesson helps” that comes with those felts tells the basic stories of church history, so we’ll be using that. I think Little Bit’s at an age where the felts will help to draw her into the stories abit too, even if she doesn’t really understand. We'll also be using the Pathways of the Pioneers CDs to tell the stories of our early church pioneers. I really have no idea how fast we’ll move through this or how long it will take, if it takes all year, great, if it only takes a couple months, that’s fine and then we’ll play things by


Spanish – This past year we had several “electives” that we spread out over the week and Spanish was one of those. We’re using The Easy Spanish curriculum(Junior level) and I think we’ll try to at least spend a few minutes EVERY day (or every day that we “do school” anyway) on Spanish this year.

Nature – The girls love nature, I love that they love nature! I was reminded, recently, while re-reading Raising Your Spirited Child that we need to schedule time outside every day, for so many reasons. So I’m hoping to make that a priority this year, WHAT specifics we study, I’ll let the girls decide, sometimes we may just go for a walk and see what we see, and that’s ok too. . .

Handwriting – This is one of our current TOS Crew review subject. The timing is great. A couple months ago A1 asked to learn “curlicubes” (she INSISTS on calling it that, not cursive), so I started just giving them a letter to practice every couple days. Interestingly, A1 has struggled with it, and I think if it were just her, she’d have decided to stop for awhile, but A2 has blossomed, I love seeing her enjoy writing more and I really think cursive is the key for her, for whatever reason, she’s struggled with printing, and is finding cursive much easier. And then, we were sent a cursive handwriting program to review, so that’s encouraged us to “kick it up a notch” so that we can give it an honest, and comprehensive review at the end of the month. So, handwriting will for sure be a daily topic for the month of August, after that, we shall see . . . it will depend on where we’re at at that point. I for sure want to keep focusing on it until we’ve worked through the whole alphabet, then we’ll see . . . I must admit, as long as they write legibly, I don’t see a whole lot of value in a specific “class” seems like we can practice handwriting while writing things that have other value.

Math – Just today I got notification that we’ll be reviewing Pyramath so once we receive the product, we’ll have math class for a month or so while we try it out, then we’ll probably go back to learning math through life, though people say this is as addictive as Suduko and we all love Suduko so we may be hooked LOL.

Cooking – A2 especially is interested in learning to cook better, so as much as possible (Little Bit’s getting to the point where this should be at least a tad easier) I’d like to expand on that and get both big girls cooking more and learning more about nutrition and kitchen skills in general.

Handwork – we’ll also continue to encourage their knitting, weaving, cross-stitching, and other handwork, if my mom has time later this winter we might move into some beginning sewing machine lessons as well, we shall see. . .

Be sure to hop over to Heart of the Matter to check out what others are using for curriculum this year.